Thursday 17 October, 2019

T&T Catholic Church supports removal of sodomy laws

The Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago has signalled its approval of a recent High Court decision which deemed buggery laws as unconstitutional and a violation of basic human rights. 

Archbishop Charles Gordon said in the Catholic News on Sunday April 15 that the act of sodomy should not result in a life-long prison sentence. 

"Buggery is a serious moral offence, but it should not put someone in prison for 25 years," he said. 

Gordon referred to the Vatican’s statement at the 63rd Session of the United Nations in 2008, which said, “The Holy See continues to advocate that every sign of unjust discrimination toward homosexual persons should be avoided and urges states to do away with criminal penalties against them.”

Gordon said that mercy is at the centre of Christ’s teachings.

“Mercy is the epicenter of the Gospel message. Homosexuals should be protected, and we should ensure that they are not subjected to discrimination or violence … They should be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity."

Gordon, however, maintained his opposition to same-sex marriage.

“These may well be strategies that are tied together. We need to deal with them separately,” he said, adding, “We will oppose same-sex marriage in every way possible. That is a different issue."

Father Martin Sirju, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain, acknowledged that the law was discriminatory.

“It’s really discriminatory, when you think about it, because there are heterosexual people who practice this sexual expression, and they are not the ones being targeted in this. It’s just one group.

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Following the ruling which was handed down by High Court judge Justice Devindra Rampersad on April 12, the State has signalled its intention to appeal the matter, which was filed by human rights activist Jason Jones.

Rampersad said the judgement was not an indication of religious beliefs, as it was acknowledged that the law must uphold the rights of all.

This conclusion is not an assessment of denial of the religious beliefs of anyone. … However, this conclusion is a recognition that the belief of some, by definition, is not the belief of all and, in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, all are protected, and are entitled to be protected, under the constitution.

For now, the act of buggery remains a crime and persons found guilty can be sentenced to jail for 25 years.

A similar case was brought before the courts in Belize after Jamaican lawyer Maurice Tomlinson challenged immigration laws in Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, saying they denied entry to homosexuals.

However, the matter was thrown out after it was shown that neither Belize nor Trinidad and Tobago prohibits ‘homosexual CARICOM neighbours’ from entering the country.

In 2016, the Belizean Supreme Court removed its buggery laws after activist Caleb Orozco challenged the Criminal Code. The Catholic Church in Belize supported keeping the act illegal.

 

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